Leviathan: The World's Greatest Ship, Vol. 1


Front Cover, Leviathan: The World's Greatest Ship, Volume 1 by Frank O. Braynard, 1972. GGA Image ID # 1e8d3fb20a



In September 1911, workers in the shipyard of Blohm & Voss in Hamburg started on a new ship that would be christened VATERLAND. The world would know her best as the LEVIATHAN, one of the grandest and storied ocean liners of all time.

The first volume takes us from the construction of the VATERLAND to the end of World War One when the VATERLAND, now the U.S.S Leviathan, was used as a troop transport and packed with fabulous photographs and reproductions of newspaper articles.

The author, the late Frank O. Braynard, produced this first volume literally out of love and the generosity of a few hundred people. Only a few thousand of each volume were published, making these books one of the rarest in the library of the Gjenvick-Gjønvik Archives.



This book is dedicated to Albert Ballin, William Francis Gibbs and his brother Frederic, and the Robert L. Hague Merchant Marine Industries Post and to two generous LEVIATHAN engineers: "Eddie" Jones and Harry Wright, and the LEVIATHAN Veterans Association with sincere gratitude.


From the Front DJ Flap

BY WAY OF APOLOGY for the details in this first volume and the whole idea of four volumes on one ship, I would like to explain my lifelong passion for this ship.


Four Sketches by Frank Braynard Through the Years, 1923, 1926, 1945, and 1955.

Four Sketches by Frank Braynard Through the Years, 1923, 1926, 1945, and 1955. GGA Image ID # 2042ed0536


The four pictures above are illustrations of this love for the LEVIATHAN. In 1923, when I was attempting for the second time to pass first grade, my interest in the LEVIATHAN was stimulated by a kindly husband and wife team of teachers.

Although I can not specifically remember any special mention by them of the LEVIATHAN, they must have done so as the brother of Alexander Blackburn had been her Executive Officer in World War I, a fact that I only rediscovered while this book was in prep­aration.

I recall being asked to show the first grade how to draw the letter "L" on the blackboard while learning the alphabet. And I knew how to do it because I could spell "LEVI­ATHAN" even though I could not spell my name (see my first sketch). The 1926 picture is a watercolor of the LEVIATHAN.

The 1945 pen and ink sketch was done for my book LIVES OF THE LINERS. The 1955 sketch was for my book FAMOUS AMERICAN SHIPS. The twenty-odd fancy letter sketches used at chapter and sub-chapter openings are all new sketches or scenes of or aboard the LEVIATHAN. Completing this four-volume series will take another six years, two per volume. For a summary of the three remaining books, see the back flap.

Frank O. Braynard


Dustjacket Cover for Volume 1 Showing the SS Leviathan, The World's Greatest Ship. From a Painting by Albert Brenet.

Dustjacket Cover for Volume 1 Showing the SS Leviathan, The World's Greatest Ship. From a Painting by Albert Brenet. GGA Image ID # 2042b6cedf


From the Back DJ Flap

Putting this story into four volumes was a step that ran against the advice of all publishers except the South Street Sea­port Museum. The price had to be high because only 2,000 copies of each book would be printed (with only half of these bound).

The LEVIATHAN is big enough, in deed and maritime history, to warrant a very substantial book. Add to her life the experiences of some thousand of those who worked on her, with her, and for her or who sailed on her, and this slice of Americana becomes impressive.

Drop into the panorama references to the world of that day, to the big and to the little events of the three eras she encompassed, and there is a good reason for four large volumes. Five books may be needed. Other photographs are available. The research now done fills four large filing cabinet drawers. The LEVIATHAN lived roughly 10,000 days, and there are items for virtually every day of this hectic, harried, and heroic life.

After Volume 1, much remains to be told. The second volume will deal with the years of un­certainty. At the same time, she lay idle, with her marvelous restoration into "the world's greatest ship" and her first eight voyages as the flagship of United States Lines.

Volume III will cover her lush years after grounding in December 1923, her famous passengers, outstand­ing officers, and the perpetual contro­versy that made her front page news. Volume IV will detail the sale to private ownership, her last two maiden voyages, her many firsts, and then her disastrous crack in 1929, ending with her prolonged idleness and her colorful journey to the scrap yard in Scotland- a trip worthy of a book.

The South Street Seaport Museum is happy to act as the publisher of this work. Its bookstore at 25 Fulton Street, New York, N.Y., 10038, will accept mail orders.


About the Author

Frank O. Braynard's passion for American ships has dramatically pleased him. His suggestion resulted in the world's first nuclear merchant ship, the SAVANNAH.

For several years, he, with hundreds of volunteers from the Army and Navy, sought to find the wreck of the original SAVANNAH, which was lost off Fire Island in 1821. He has not given up on this quest.

Despite his love for steam, he was one of the main cogs for the 1964 Operation Sail. He is presently working on the coming Operation Sail for our Bicentennial. Author of 9 books and many articles, he is a past president of the Steamship Historical Society of America.

He is an honorary member of the Council of American Master Mariners and Veteran Wireless Operators Association. His maritime collection at his home in Sea Cliff is one of the largest in the world.


Table of Contents

  • Chapter I: Before the Beginning
  • Chapter II: Hull
  • Chapter III: Two Fiery Weapons
  • Chapter IV: She Sails
  • Chapter V: Six More Crossings
  • Chapter VI: Hoboken
  • Chapter VII: American
  • Chapter VIII: She Sails Again
  • Chapter IX: New Pride, New Rules, New Captain
  • Chapter X: Danger
  • Chapter XI: Sailing in Company
  • Chapter XII: The War Ends
  • Chapter XIII: The Rush to Get Home
  • Chapter XIV: 14,416-a Record
  • Chapter XV: 'Big Chief'Comes Home
  • Notes
  • Index


Ships Referenced in Volume One of the Leviathan



Library of Congress Catalog Listing

  • Personal name: Braynard, Frank O. (Frank Osborn), 1916-2007.
  • Main title: "World's greatest ship"; the story of the Leviathan, by Frank O. Braynard.
  • Published/Created: [New York, South Street Seaport Museum, 1972-1983]
  • Description: 6 v. illus. (some col.) 29 cm.
  • LC classification: VM383.L3 B7
  • Related titles: Leviathan.
  • LC Subjects: Leviathan (Steamship)
  • Notes: On cover: Leviathan. Vol. 4 has imprint: Newport News, Va. : Mariners Museum, [1978]. Vol. 5 has imprint: [Sea Cliff, N.Y.] : F.O. Braynard, [1981]. Vol. 6 has imprint: [Kings Point, N.Y. : American Merchant Marine Museum, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, 1983]. Some ill. on lining papers. Includes bibliographical references and indexes.
  • LCCN: 72085207
  • Dewey class no.: 387.2/43
  • Type of material: Book



Braynard, Frank O., Leviathan " "The World's Greatest Ship," New York: South Street Seaport Museum (1972). LOC 72-85207. First Run 2,300. Dustcover shown. Underlying hardcover Book is dark red.


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